How to properly handle spiritual drynesses

August 9, 2021 • 8 min

From Introduction to the Devout Life, page 252

This book snippet follows Spiritual dryness, and its various causes and is followed by Further instructions on spiritual dryness.

There are several causes which occasion our fall from the consolations of devotion into dryness and barrenness of spirit. Let us then examine whether we can find any of them in ourselves; but observe, Philothea, that this examination is not to be made either with inquietude or too much curiosity; but if, after having faithfully considered our conduct, we find the cause of the evil to originate in ourselves, let us thank God for the discovery; for the evil is half cured when the cause of it is known; but if, on the contrary, you can find nothing in particular which may seem to have occasioned this dryness, do not trouble yourself about making any further inquiry, but with all simplicity, do as I shall now advise you.

  1. Humble yourself very much before God, by acknowledging your own nothingness and misery. Alas! O Lord, what am I when left to myself but a dry parched ground, which, being rent on every side, has a great thirst for rain, but which, in the meantime, is dispersed by the wind, being reduced to dust.

  2. Call upon God, and beg comfort of Him. “Restore unto me, O Lord, the joy of thy salvation. Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass away from me.” Away, O thou barren north wind, that witherest my soul; and blow, O gentle gale of consolations, upon the garden of my heart, that its good affections may diffuse around the odour of sweetness.

  3. Go to your confessor, open your soul to him, and follow the advice he gives you, with the utmost simplicity and humility; for God, who is well pleased with obedience, frequently renders the counsels we take from others, but especially from those who are the guides of our soul, profitable, when otherwise there might be no great appearance of success; as He made the waters of Jordan healthful to Namaan, the use of which Eliseus had ordained him, without any appearance of human reason (4 Kings, v. 14).

  4. But after all this, there is nothing so profitable and so fruitful in a state of spiritual dryness, as not to suffer our affections to be too strongly fixed upon the desire of being delivered from it. I do not say that we ought not simply to wish for deliverance, but that we should not set our heart upon it, but rather yield ourselves up to the pure mercy and special providence of God, that He may make use of us to serve Him as long as He pleases. In the midst of these thorns and deserts, let us say: “O Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass away from me;” let us also add, courageously, “yet not my will, but thine be done!”

But here let us stop with as much tranquillity as possible: for God, beholding this holy indifference, will comfort us with many graces and favours; as was the case with Abraham, when he resolved to deprive himself of his son Isaac; God, who contented Himself in seeing him in this disposition of pure resignation, comforted him with a most delightful vision, accompanied by the most consolatory benedictions.

We ought, then, under all kinds of afflictions, whether corporal or spiritual, and amidst all distractions or lessenings of sensible devotion, which may happen to us, to say, with Job, from the bottom of our heart, with profound submission, “The Lord gave me consolations, and the Lord has taken them away; his holy name be for ever blessed.” For if we continue in this humility, He will restore to us his delightful favours, as He did to Job, who constantly used the like words in all his miseries.

Finally, Philothea, in the midst of our spiritual dryness, let us never lose courage, but wait with patience for the return of consolation. Let us not omit any of our exercises of devotion, but if possible, let us multiply our good works; and not being able to present liquid sweetmeats to our dear Spouse, let us offer Him dry ones; for either is acceptable to Him, provided that the heart which offers them is perfectly fixed in the resolution of loving Him.

When the spring is fair, it is said that bees make more honey, and multiply less; but when the spring is cold and cloudy, they multiply more, and make less honey. Thus it happens frequently, Philothea, that the soul, finding herself in the fair spring of spiritual consolations, amuses herself so much in gathering and sucking them, that in the abundance of these sweet delights she produces fewer good works; whilst, on the contrary, in the midst of spiritual dryness, the more destitute she finds herself of the consolations of devotion, the more she multiplies her good works, and enriches herself more and more with the virtues of patience, humility, self-contempt, resignation, and renunciation of self-love.

It is the mistake of many, especially of women, to believe that the service of God, without relish, tenderness of heart, or sensible satisfaction, is less agreeable to his Divine Majesty; for as our actions are like roses, which, when fresh, have more beauty, yet, when dry, have more perfume and sweetness; even so, though our works done with tenderness of heart are more agreeable to ourselves, who regard only our own delight, yet, when performed in the time of dryness, they possess more sweetness, and become more precious in the sight of God. Yes, Philothea, in the time of dryness our will carries us by main force, as it were, to the service of God, and consequently it must be more vigorous and constant than in the time of consolation.

There is not much merit in serving a prince in times of peace, amid the delights of the court; but to serve him amidst the hardships of war, or in troubles and persecutions, is a true mark of constancy and fidelity.

Blessed Angela de Foligno says, that the prayer which is most acceptable to God is that which we make by force and constraint, the prayer to which we apply ourselves, not for any relish we find init, nor by inclination, but purely to please God, to which our will carries us against our inclinations, violently forcing its way through the midst of those clouds of dryness which oppose it. I say the same of all sorts of good works, whether interior or exterior; for the more contradictions we find in doing them, the higher they are esteemed in the sight of God. The less there is of our particular interest in the pursuit of virtues, the brighter does the purity of divine love shine forth in them. A child willingly kisses its mother when she gives it sugar; but it is a sign of great love if it kisses her after she has given it wormwood or any other bitter drink.

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